On Harmonica, Practice Beats Equipment

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Practice beats equipment and it ain’t even close.

When I was in my first year of playing, I thought that buying a Hohner Crossover for about 80 bucks would immediately give me the ability to bend notes and have a clear tone.

But it didn’t. It did sound better to me, don’t get me wrong, but I still needed to do something else.

I needed more practice. I needed more time with the instrument.

So the more I practiced. The more I played. The bends got easier. In addition, they got clearer.

Now I am by no means an expert or professional right now, but I my bends are getting better every day.

OK…so new equipment ain’t gonna necessarily get you to your goals. So how do you know when to buy some more equipment and when to just practice till you get over it.

1) If you have a harmonica that you paid less than 10 dollars for, then you need another one. And I mean right now.

Don’t buy or continue playing a Hohner BluesBand or some other crappy leaky harmonica that cost less than 10 bucks. It will be very difficult to bend on those.

This will end your harmonica career before you start because it will be so difficult to play. The first harmonicas I got were Lee Oskars and Special 20s. I then played around with some Golden Melodys, Sydel Session Steels, and Crossovers. All of them are good choices.

Which one do I like the most? I bounce around between Golden Melodys and Crossovers as my favorites. I really like the way the Golden Melody fits in my hand.

The Session Steel makes my mouth feel like it is open too wide. I just don’t like the way the Session Steel feels in my mouth. At any rate, I can buy two Special 20s or two Lee Oskars for what it costs for one Crossover. So why buy the Crossover? The Lee Oskar and Special 20s sound good, feels good so why fool with the more expensive ones?

Well, I thought I needed it to bend. and I found out, I needed to practice to bend. lol. So I suggest unless you got 80 bucks laying around, why not get a good mid level harp. Hey..The Special 20 is the same guts as a Marine Band anyway, so get one or two of those. Get a C and an A and you are ready to practice.

2) If you want to play harmonica with a group that wants to play in more than one key then buy some more harps.

Ok. You want to play with a guy who has a guitar. Or you want to play at church. Yeah, get some. Find out what key they are playing in and then get the cross-harp equivalent. In other words if they want to play in G, then get you a C. If they want to play in E, then get you an A.

If you want to play with others, you are gonna need another harp. So you might have to get a few. And when you do, try a different harp. So you got a Special 20in the key of C. Why not go head and buy a Lee Oskar in the key of A. And then get a G Golden Melody. That way you will be getting the keys you need as well as learning which brand of harp you like best. Right now I am in a Special 20 phase. But that will probably change.

In short, …don’t buy every harp key yet. Just get a few keys and try different brands. I still need to try the Manji.

3) If you need to be heard. OK, buy an amp and mic. lol. It also is good to practice if you are gonna play amplified harp, it is a different feel and different instrument.

Are you playing acoustic or amplified? You probably want to try both. In any case, if you playing with others, you probably need some sort of amplification in any case.

I have been playing around with my son’s Fender Champion 20 guitar amp. It is kind of cool. It is definitely low end, but it is a good first amp if you just playing around. Check it out. So you have an amp, you must get a mic. So Go buy a mic. My first harmonica mic was the SuperLux. It is a bullet mic and it is about half the price of the shure one.

One thing I have been playing with as of late is the bottle of the blues amp-mic set. I haven’t been able to get a decent sound out of the pocket amp into my fender champion 20 but I can plug the mic straight into the amp.

Again, just get started. Worry about more expensive eqioupment later. Because your sound is probably crappy because of you need to practice and beuase you need to learn how to work the dials to get a good sound. You don’t have to pay 500 dollars and get an amp that does that, why not figuire it out now.

4) if you have no method and/or music books, go buy a few.

OK, books. yeah, I went overboard I got all kinds of method books. And after a while I realized that I really didn’t need all of that. I can’t even comprehend or digest all fo that.

So here is what you need.

Go…run….don’t walk…run and sign up for David Barret’s BluesHarmonica.Com. That is the coursee I am workign though now. You need to do it. And you need to do it now.

Then again….run…don’t walk…run and buy Jon Gindick’s Country Blues Harmonica. This is a good book that will get you improvising early. I made some great strides when I began with this book. Go check i tout. it will help you.

There are a lot of good books out there. But finish Country Blues Harmoica and then start transcribing great harmonica players. You need records not books. The answers are in the records.


OK, you wondering if you need to buy equipment or practice to learn how to do something. If you got 3 or 4 harps and you have a amp and a mic and you have a few books. Then you don’t need anything but practice. Get at it and keep on harping.

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